Lecturer to Discuss Crocodylian Bite Marks at Friday’s Science Forum

Drumheller-Horton feeding a partial cow hind limb to a group of American alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida. She was collecting bite mark samples from different species of crocodylian on cow and pig limbs.

Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, lecturer in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, helped make an interesting discovery in a dinosaur fossil earlier this year.

She will be discussing her research at the Science Forum on Friday, April 12.

While analyzing bite marks on some seventy-five million year-old dinosaur bones that were collected in southern Utah in 2002, she and a team of paleontologists found the remnant of a prehistoric crocodylian tooth—evidence that crocs may have eaten small dinosaurs.

“Crocodylian” is a term encompassing several living animals, including alligators, crocodiles, and caimans, and their closest extinct relatives.

Drumheller-Horton studies both modern and ancient crocodylians, comparing the patterns of bite marks they leave on the bones of their prey.

The Science Forum is a weekly brown-bag lunch series that allows professors and area scientists to discuss their research with the general public in a conversational presentation.

Femur with tooth.

The weekly presentations begin at noon on Fridays in Room C-D of Thompson-Boling Arena. Attendees can bring lunch or purchase it at the arena. Each presentation is forty minutes long and is followed by a question-and-answer session. Science Forum presentations are free and open to the public.

Drumheller-Horton will speak about her work with modern crocodylians and then compare her findings with several case studies of fossils like the dinosaur bones she helped analyze.

She says that comparing bite mark patterns of modern crocodylians to ancient ones allows scientists to identify “very specific behavior that can be traced back sixty or seventy million years.”

They are also able to identify specific types of crocodylian species based on the fossils and learn about what was happening in their ecosystem at the time.

Drumheller-Horton has been studying crocodylian bite marks since 2006, when she began researching them for her dissertation.

Future Science Forums will feature:

  • April 19: Devon M. Burr, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences, discussing “The Moon That Would Be a Planet: Saturn’s Giant Titan”
  • April 26: Joan Markel, curator of Civil War exhibits at the McClung Museum, presenting “Digging into Our Civil War Past”

The Science Forum is sponsored by the UT Office of Research. For more information about the Science Forum, visit the Office of Research website.

C O N T A C T :

Holly Gary (865-974-2225, hgary@utk.edu)

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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